At the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Scott A. Wolla and Kaitlyn Frerking have a paper titled “Making Sense of the National Debt.”  The conclusion:

The national debt is high by historical standards—and rising. People often assume that governments must pay off their debts in the same way that individuals do. How­ever, there are important differences: Governments (and their economies) do not retire, and governments do not die (or don’t intend to). As long as their debt payments remain sustainable, governments can finance their debt indefinitely. And if a government prints money to solve its debt problem, history warns that hyperinflation and financial ruin will likely result. While debt in itself is not a bad thing, it can become dangerous if it becomes unsustainable.